The $364 Billion Man

Posted by Marc Hodak on October 6, 2011 under History | Be the First to Comment

Numbers don’t tell the whole story.  In fact, they don’t tell any story, which is why people are generally less interested in numbers than they are in the narratives that form around them.  Steve Job’s life is full of amazing stories about form+function, mechanical beauty, and inspiration.  An alien could add up the deluge of accolades in the 24 hours since his passing and infer, with good reason, that Steve Jobs was important to humanity.

But someone could also reach that conclusion by crunching a few numbers so far invisible among the accolades.  Those numbers net out to $364 billion.  That would be the increase in market capitalization of Apple over the times Jobs led that firm, plus the market values of Pixar and NeXT at the times he sold them, net of the relatively negligible amounts he put into them.  In a narrative form, we would refer to those as the market value added of Steve Jobs.

To be sure, Jobs didn’t create that value all by himself.  He had a lot of co-investors, work colleagues, and not a few Chinese factory workers helping him.  Still, his vision, creativity, and energy put it all together, creating those immense opportunities for all those he led, as well as for the millions of consumers who looked at his company’s creations and went “Wow.”

Even net of the contribution of all his partners in enterprise, at an estimated net worth of $7 billion, Jobs probably captured only a tiny fraction of the value he created for society.  I mention that not to suggest he was under-compensated, but to suggest that the same is probably true for innumerable other entrepreneurs with far less fame than Jobs.

But Jobs has one unique distinction among all entrepreneurs, or, for that matter, among any  builder, mogul, or monarch:  The enterprises under his leadership created more value than any others in history.

The fact that he did this in 56 years is today’s tragedy;  what has the future lost by the random cutting of an extra 20 years of his extraordinary life–a period when many business leaders are hitting their stride?

Add A Comment